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Showing posts from March 24, 2014

Geopolitical Calendar: Week of March 24, 2014


March 24-25: Chinese President Xi Jinping will join 57 world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague before visiting officials in France, Germany and Belgium.
March 24-27: The European Parliament will hold committee meetings in Brussels.
March 26: U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the U.S.-EU Summit in Brussels and will meet with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as well as Belgian officials.
March 27: Delegates from the European Parliament, the European Commission and EU member states will meet in Brussels to discuss the 2015 budget.
March 27: U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Italy to meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis.
March 28: The board of the International Monetary Fund is expected to make a decision on the disbursement of the next tranche of aid to Cyprus.
March 29: Slovakia will hold the second round of its presidential election.


Syria: Breaking the Stalemate

Rebel fighters clash with pro-government forces in Aleppo, Syria. (TAMER AL-HALABI/AFP/Getty Images)


The ongoingSyrian civil war has taken its toll on both sides. Neither President Bashar al Assad's regime (backed by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah) nor the Free Syrian Army (supported by various Sunni jihadist groups, Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, and the West) has been able to secure a decisive victory. But as the duration and human cost of the conflict continue to grow, all parties will be looking for an alternative to continued fighting and wider destabilization in the region.


The Syrian conflict can be broadly split into three distinct phases. The first, which began in the summer of 2011, saw a civil uprising against al Assad solidify into an armed rebellion. From the spring of 2013 onward, the rebellion expanded rapidly and cohesively before reaching a stalemate. Moving into 2014, the rebellion entered its third phase as fracturing opposition alliances allowe…

The Growing U.S. Sanctions List Against Russia

Twenty Russian individuals and one Russian bank have been added to the U.S. sanctions list, which freezes targets' assets within -- and travel to -- the United States. Unlike the previous list, the expanded sanctions list includes many figures who are powerful within Russia. Those on the previous list, such as Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin and presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, openly mocked the list, calling it a badge of honor for a Russian. The tone of the new list is more serious, but it does not include any official with major connections to or assets in the United States.

Although the list still is mostly symbolic, Obama said that the sanctions are targeting not just those who are responsible for events in Ukraine but also those who support the leadership, namely Putin. The expanded list includes members of Putin's inner circle -- the so-called Politburo -- who personally organize the behind-the-scenes maneuvers for Putin, along with some of the president's pe…

Another Stolen Generation: How Australia Still Wrecks Aboriginal Families

The mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents continues unabated – where is the outrage?

By John Pilger

"The Guardian"- The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Aboriginal Australian] you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognised abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous stolen generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children wer…

War in Syria Set to Intensify

By Eric Margolis

As Syria lies dying, western media cries, “we must save Syria’s suffering children.” Indeed so, among Syria’s nine million internal and external refugees, some 450,000 are children.

All civil wars are bloody and cruel, but Syria’s strife has reached new extremes of violence and mass civilian suffering as the US and Saudi Arabia use this once beautiful, bountiful nation as a proxy battleground against Iran.

I extensively covered Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war; its ghastly memory still makes me shudder. In the 14 wars I’ve reported on, Lebanon holds top ranking for barbarity and sadism. One friend of mine, the owners of women’s boutiques, became a paramilitary Rambo and went from selling perfume to cutting off and collecting the ears of Muslims.

A similar madness has descendent on Syria as its many ethnic and religious groups tear one another’s throats. Syria’s 630,000 Palestinian refugees have suffered frightfully, caught between the warring parties.

But as we lament the…

France's Election Season Will Pose Serious Challenges for the Government

National Front leader Marine Le Pen salutes her supporters in Tours, France. (Patrick Durand/Getty Images)


The ongoing economic crisis in the eurozone is increasingly affecting France's internal politics. The country will hold two elections in the coming months: nationwide municipal elections March 23 and March 30 followed by EU Parliament elections May 25. In both votes, the Socialist government will likely lose ground to the opposition center-right Union for a Popular Movement and, more important, to the nationalist and Euroskeptical National Front. Although the French electoral system will prevent the National Front from taking over a large number of town halls and city councils, the elections will show the public's rising discontent with France's political elites. Even moderate gains will increase the far right's ability to influence the agenda of mainstream parties and gain legitimacy among voters. In the short term, Paris is unlikely to waver on its path t…

China, U.S. Engage in First Lady Diplomacy

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson (L) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) on March 21. Andy Wong-Pool/Getty Images


U.S. first lady Michelle Obama is in the middle of a weeklong visit to China, officially at the invitation of Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan. The visit is notable perhaps not so much for being Obama's first visit to China or for a U.S. first lady's taking a role in international relations, but for Peng's emergence as a public figure. For decades, China's first lady was a low-key position. The role of president is not as prominent in China as it is in the United States; the Chinese president shares power with the premier, party general secretary and Politburo. China also has lingering concerns about a too-powerful woman behind the scenes, such as Mao Zedong's wife, Jiang Qing. Peng's more public role reflects potential changes in the perception and power of he…